Work attempts and unemployment insurance can be important factors in your Social Security disability case. I recently received this email from a reader of my ssdAnswers.com blog:
I have read a lot of your information online, and I have a up coming hearing in about 3 weeks. A non-attorney advocate will be representing me. I am very curious about one aspect of my hearing, that I have attempted to try to work but was unsuccessful 3 different times after I filed for disability. The longest the employer has kept me was about 45 days, and the last job was only 7 weeks. I drew unemployment, however, my physician wrote a letter on my behalf due to the job turnover I have had in reference to my current disabilities.
Of course I have had no unemployment since beginning of may due to the claim year ending, and my father has tried to help me financially. I have interstitial cystitis, lumbar back problems, along with depression and anxiety. I cannot sit for over 15 to 20 minutes, and have a lot of leg weakness when standing. This has been quite an ordeal for me. I have NO insurance, so it is a challenge trying to get medication, or any further services related to medical. Could you please give me some advice concerning my upcoming hearing. I have supplied my work History and documents from unemployment stating the reason I was terminated and of course I qualified for benefits. I have truly tied to keep work, but my health problems and disabilities have stopped me. Thank you for your input.
Here are my thoughts:
1. As far as your work attempts, the rule of thumb that I follow is that a work attempt that lasts less than 3 months will generally be considered an unsuccessful work attempt. I usually find that if my client has 2 or 3 unsuccessful work attempts, it shows that my client tried to work despite his medical issues and it reflects positively on his credibility at a hearing. This is especially true if the unsuccessful attempt was an entry level, low stress job with minimal physical requirements.
I recorded a video about work attempts prior to hearings – which you can view at http://youtu.be/PnZzTM42Bt0.
2. Unemployment – recently I have noticed that judges are asking whether you have filed for unemployment. The problem, of course, is that when you file for unemployment, you are stating that you are ready, willing and able to work. This is contrary to what you are saying to Social Security – i.e., that you cannot work.
I advise my clients to tell the judge that they filed unemployment with the expectation that they would try their hardest to work – thus the unsuccessful work attempts – but that the cold reality has been that they simply do not have the capacity to do so.
Some judges will use your unemployment application against you, while others will not.
3. Hearing presentation – your representative should have an argument prepared and I would defer to that person. My only comment would be to suggest that you focus on specific limitations that arise from your condition and that you should be very specific. For example, claimants with IC often have to use the restroom at least once an hour. Be prepared to give the judge a specific answer when he asks how often you go – don’t say “all the time” or “frequently.” Instead, give a number.
4. Disability Advocate – make sure you schedule a time to meet with your representative prior to your hearing. Disability Advocates are not lawyers and you may find that the quality of representation may vary, although some are quite capable. Ask you representative to verbalize an opening statement to you, and make sure that the rep has a clear theory of disability.